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This is a question Ginger

Do you have red hair? Do you know someone hit with the ginger stick? Tell us your story.

(, Thu 25 Feb 2010, 12:54)
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Speedie the Rent-a-Cat
For all the vitriol we've seen poured out over the last couple of days in the direction of our more Celtic-looking compatriots, we seem to have forgotten that some very beautiful things were born with the ginger gene being expressed in their phenotype. Enough of us have covered those comely, flame-haired Irish wenches with hypnotic green eyes that just make you want to misbehave...sorry, where was I?

Oh, yes - what about kittehs? I know a lot of you are fed up with "teh fluffeh," but I feel it's time to balance the atmosphere of this qotw by telling you about a big, fat ginger tomcat.

Scientists would argue that, among common domestic animals, dogs are more intelligent that cats because they can be taught to perform a far wider range of tasks that any feline. Admittedly these tasks tend to be fairly useless (sit down, come here, bring back the stick I just threw away, please don't jump up - yes I know you're pleased to see me but you're a big dog now and you're pinning me against the wall and I'm afraid you want to bugger me), but it's true that you can't teach 'em to a cat.

Cynics, however, would argue that cats are more intelligent. Yes, the dog learns to cling to us and do what we tell it, because it knows that's the most reliable way to get fed and walked. But the cat has gone one further, because he knows damn well that he can swan around the neighbourhood all day without a bye or leave and by about 8pm you'll always get worried and go looking for him, and then he'll endure your fuss for ten minutes on the condition that you feed him and allow him to bugger off to bed. (Probably your bed, in fact.)

Speedie was one such cat. He and his brother had been adopted from an animal rescue place by a family who lived across the road from my parents. To his credit, he was a very friendly cat, who seemed to enjoy human attention and affection to the extent that if you picked him up and held him for more than five minutes, he'd probably forget that you weren't some sort of comfortable treehouse and promptly fall asleep, leaving you wondering whether it was better to wake him up or just find somewhere to sit down without disturbing him.

However, he knew all too well that he didn't have to spend all day in the same house as the people who owned him. Oh no. As a lot of cats seem wont to do, his "day shift" would involve wandering across the road to another house and finding somewhere round there to pester you, steal food or just curl up in a big orange ball and go to sleep. Come dusk, his owners would be out in the street calling for Speedie and his brother, and that was our cue to discreetly boot him out of our own house with an encouraging prod in the direction of the house where he was supposed to live.

We sometimes got the impression he didn't particularly want to go back there, only to be locked in the house for the night. I remember having to go and knock on their door one evening for whatever reason, and the second they opened the door a bolt of ginger shot past my ankles and I heard a cry of
"Oh! Stop Speedie!"
My reactions being what they've always been, it wasn't even worth trying. He ran out of their house and up the nearest tree. The whole family stepped up to red alert and ran out to surround the tree, calling to their absconding cat and trying to coax him down by waving cat biscuits at him. By this stage I'd forgotten why I'd gone over there so I just sort of wandered off.

And given the contrasting environments of our houses, you could hardly blame him. Back at Speedie's real home, they had three young girls. All very excitable, and all with very high-pitched voices. My sister and I, by comparison, were fairly quiet. Even after I took up the bass guitar, Speedie, it seemed, preferred to endure the noise of me failing to coax feedback out of a bass amp rather than being at home where he would be petted, prodded and squealed at.

Speedie, however, was something of an ironic name. Admittedly when he slipped past my grasp and shot up a tree, that was certainly quite speedy. But the majority of the time, the fat little bugger wouldn't have managed more than a reluctant trot, and even that was usually prompted by a kick up the arse. My sister managed to pop him onto the bathroom scales once and triumphantly announced that he weighed over a stone (about 6.35kg* or 14lbs). So he wasn't obese. Just portly. Our portly orange friend. (My sister's rather elderly piano teacher once met the Orange Friend and exclaimed, in a wonderfully Lady Bracknell-esque voice: "What an ENORMOUS cat!" You probably had to be there...)

Orange Friend's ability to sleep knew no bounds. I do wonder what he did of an evening, locked up in his proper home, but usually by about 7am the following day he'd be crying outside our back door. And the moment you let him in, he'd rub against you briefly in a cursory gesture of thanks and then sod off to find something comfortable to sleep on. This also led to the hilarious sight when my sister, back from a long night out, had crawled back into bed in the middle of the day, only for the cat to climb in and curl up right next to her. The saucy old bugger.

Sadly, all good pets come to an end, even if they're not your own. A few years ago, Speedie suffered a stroke and passed away. I think most of the street was quite upset to hear of the demise of this cat who had been a source of amusement for so many years - I think his owners may have been a little surprised by the amount of condolence they received (a bit like a widow receiving letters of condolence from all her late husband's mistresses...but in a fluffier sort of way). He'd become such a part of our everyday lives that it was very odd to get up in the mornings and almost go to open the back door out of habit because you expected him to be there. Odd not to be woken up on a Saturday morning after someone else had let him in and he'd jump on your bed and try to force you out of the way to make room for himself. Come to think of it, the most abiding memory of Orange Friend will probably be his quest to find new and strange places to go to sleep. Rest in peace, Speedie. You were a Truly Awesome Cat.

*Apparently the average weight for a male domestic cat is 4.5kg. Though this is taken from the SeaWorld website, so I don't know whether that's dry weight or wet, or indeed whether to trust them given the broadly non-aquatic nature of cats...
(, Sat 27 Feb 2010, 10:14, 3 replies)
Really enjoyed that
I had a half share in a cat once too (who thought he was an honorary dog in my house), but he wasn't ginger so no real relevance here.
Have a click.
(, Sat 27 Feb 2010, 14:31, closed)
My orange cat
was named Robert Burns. He too traveled around the neighborhood. Gone but not forgotten.
(, Sat 27 Feb 2010, 16:24, closed)
I like your tale.
I had a cat once too. Loved it but it went out of the house one day never to return. Still makes me sad thinking about him.

I guess someone catnapped him.
(, Sun 28 Feb 2010, 1:32, closed)

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